Hailing the sensible UI
The X1 UI is being touted as a new and dedicated theme for the X1. Whilst this is largely true it does borrow a lot from the existing UI of the X5. In fact, in comparing both I actually preferred the UI of the X1 over the X5 especially when used in conjunction with the physical buttons of the X1 which I also find intuitively superior. Now it doesn’t have the same depth of options as the X5 and of course you are working on a non touch small screen but I certainly think the flow of the X1 UI is far superior to even the latest 2.0 firmware of the X3 in terms of usability and button to menu interaction.
Boot up times of the X1 is marginally faster than the X5 after thrice testing them in a “boot off” but its slightly slower than the X3 boot times by about 1-2 seconds. The X3 shut down is also about 1 second faster than the X1 but ever so slightly slower than the X5. I say slightly slower it is minute and could have just been my two hands not being totally in sync. Either way only the X3 can claim to have the fastest boot and shut down times of the 3 FiiO DAP’s. All 3 seem very sluggish in boot times to the Clip (Rockboxed) which is almost instant on and off.
Once booted up the X1 offers 5 distinct options, 3 of which will not function without an inserted microSD card; Now Playing, Category and the File Browser. The other two main settings are the play settings menu and the main settings menu. All of these can be accessed by the jog wheel and center button with one hand and suffer from zero lag. You can return out of any submenu through the use of the return button which is on the top right hand side of the wheel. This is probably going to be your most used physical button outside of the big central button in the jog wheel for accessing menu options.
The settings menu is almost the exact same as the X5 also minus the choice of USB mode, DAC or storage. Instead the X1’s double down option on the headphone jack is available allowing you to switch between line out and headphone jack. Apart from that the only other significant difference in the settings menu is the new X1 theme selector option which has 6 different colored themes in total. Orange I quite like personally, other choices include pink, grey, green, blue and brown. I do hope there will be more options available on the theme section with future revisions. It is a simple but nice personal touch.
The playback settings menu of the X1 also looks quite similar to the X5 options. The Power-on volume of the X5 is now called the default volume in the X1 menu and the X1 does not have the X5 gain low or high option. The X1 equalizer has now moved to the playback setting menu instead of having its own unique second tier submenu that you also find on the X5. The X1 equalizer is also a 7-band equalizer rather than the more encompassing 10 band version you find on the X5. Both have presets and customization options but FiiO have drops the blues preset leaving 7 presets instead of the 8 presets of the X5.
The X1 UI is infinitely superior to the rather basic and frustrating UI of the HM-700. The wheel and physical button control and well laid out GUI options leave the HM-700’s presentation in the shade. There just isn’t that same mental connection between what the physical buttons of the HM-700 do and what the UI is suggesting you can do. It is not that obvious and at times using the HM-700, even after many hours I still press the wrong button for what I want it to do.
It feels slow in response compared to the X1 and even slower than the Sansa Clip which moves along very quickly from boot up to playback. The Clip can be considered the fastest of all the DAP’s in terms of accessing it’s (Rockbox) database once finalized and updated but tiny screen real estate is it’s biggest weakness compared to the more expansive X1 screen. The Clip’s tiny screen and line-style UI makes it feel too linear and restrictive compared to the faster drill down options on the X1 UI. Whilst needing far less processing power line UI had it’s hayday about 5-6 years ago and the “young” do expect a bit more nowadays.
Perhaps the FiiO’s biggest UI competitor is the IPod Nano (7th Gen) with its slick and well evolved Apple iOS system which works very well with the multi-touch touch based interface. The capacitive LCD though ‘low res’ compared to its bigger iTouch sibling, is slick and highly responsive. It is also very intuitive and well integrated into the Apple ethos so those migrating from any iGadget device will feel right at home with it. Tag reading is normally excellent and library building courtesy of iTunes works very easily. Of course you are locked into the Apple ecosystem unlike the FiiO UI, lacks on the go play listing and is now missing the wonderful cover flow option that I enjoyed even on the older IPod Classic and previous non touch based click wheel Nano.
Click here for sound impressions…